If you’re a freelance designer, one who works within a creative agency, or if you publish articles in a magazine or on a blog, you know that using images in your projects is an important matter. Not only do they have to look great in the greater context, but you need to know that you’ve made yourself the best deal in acquiring them. In other words, you need to be sure that they are top-notch, affordable, and easy to find. I’ve decided to compile an up-to-date list of the best stock images agencies whence you can get your images.


Stock Images

Fotolia would be my first choice, and more than 4 million customers already acted on that same feeling. Having first started out in the year 2004, the agency managed to collect over 24 million royalty-free vectors, images, and videos, to date. This number makes Fotolia seem like one of the most expansive stock image sources on the planet. And apart from being very satiable, Fotolia’s pile of images are flawless in terms of quality.

For starters, have a look at what they have to offer. There is no need to create an account in order to skim through Fotolia’s content. In fact, there are pleasant surprises awaiting visitors just around the corner, such as images that are freely available for download, together with comp for planning projects to use in your designs. Considering the free giveaways alone, it’s little wonder that Fotolia is so appealing.

Fotolia’s pricing systems are also convenient and modest. Take their credit bundles, for instance. The equivalent of one credit is only $0.74, and purchasing in this manner grants access to Fotolia’s precious Infinite Collection, while also allowing for the enlisting of Extended Royalty-Free Licenses. Also, you can occasionally tap into their Low Cost Collection when your budget is small.

What about Fotolia’s Individual and Multiple Membership subscriptions? Well, you can either opt for a Daily, or a Monthly plan. With the Daily subscription, you sign for 25 to 250 downloads at a price of $0.19 each. Alternatively, the Monthly subscription offers 5 images a month for $25, up to 5000 a month starting from $0.84 per file (and there are no daily limits). Click on the “Fotolia” subheading, and the link will take to an offer which gift wraps the second month of a subscription of 5 images per month for $25.


Stock Images

123RF has one of the biggest collection that the stock image industry has to offer. Day in, day out, their experts tend to around 35.000 new royalty-free files. As such, 123RF has reached the mark of 22 million content comprised of vectors, photos, video and audio files.

What really caught my attention was 123RF On-The-Go; the agency’s mobile application for spontaneous photo submissions. This is how photography was meant to be: an art form focused on capturing moments. I’d gladly get my hands on some of those images, because of the flexibility that this application has to offer contributors is amazing. The rendered images that I’ve seen are remarkably authentic.

If you decide to acquire images from 123RF, you can do so by subscribing, or by using credits. You’ll notice that the latter option never sets a limit on the daily download rate, whereas the Basic and Premium subscription plans hold the advantage of larger discounts and more downloads per day as longer commitments are taken.

The company’s 100% money-back guarantee is perfectly valid for the first 72 hours after the customer pays a royalty-free image that doesn’t quite accommodate his project-specific needs. While that is truly admirable, the best part of doing business with 123RF is the fact that registered members have the opportunity to access a special section which contains 30.000 free graphics, photos, and audio files. You can download as much as you want from that collection without paying a dime in return.


Stock Images

My personal favorite, iStock, is a legend. It’s actually the first ever stock photo agency in existence, having launched in 2000 before anyone else. I reckon that, in 13 years, the agency has managed to sustain an impeccable reputation of providing creative professionals with exquisite stock files. iStock continues to work within an exclusive framework to this day, and presently it has 6 million illustrations, photos, Flash media, vectors, video footage, and audio files in the bank.

Tracking down something from their database is a thorough process which leaves no room for errors. All the filters put in place make sure of that. Once you’ve perused iStock’s search box, you’ll be left with the distinct impression that nothing was missed, and at the same time, nothing irrelevant got through. Aside from quarries, I need to praise some of iStock’s sections: “Editor’s Picks” have all sorts of recommendations from the agency’s elite, and the Lightbox gives one image for free each week.

Finally, buying from iStock means you pay with credits, or take a subscription. Going for credits is a good idea. In one session, 15 to 30.000 pieces can be acquired with a discount of up to 25%. I must call your attention to iStock’s wonderful offers. The company’s homepage asserts that right now a part of their exclusive stock files are available for sale at half the price. Besides, in the case of credit-based shopping, you can type in ISTOCK14 and check out with a 14% cut off the price. Investigate the “iStock” subheading for further details.


Stock Images

Thinkstock is so special and unlike any other microstock agency in the way it pieced together all its content. Basically, Thinkstock comes across as the materialized potential of more than 40 stock image providers, including Getty Images, iStock, and Jupiterimages. Another unique aspect is that any downloaded file can come in any desired size, as its price doesn’t depend on that. Additionally, Thinkstock’s September offers are a treat: the Pro annual subscription is currently coupled with a $750 Visa Reward Card, and the code R4HPC46N ensures a 20% discount for the same Pro 1-year plan. Also, typing in the code GTDPC46N at checkout will take 60% off any monthly subscription.


Stock Images

I have a great deal of regard for Depositphotos. The company has a considerable amount of files in its vault, specifically 17 million photos, vectors, and videos. If you should pay them a visit out of sheer curiosity, I strongly advise that you let that drive take you to the Depositphotos section of vectors, which is where you’ll stumble upon 4.600 pixel-perfect works. In addition, I feel certain that you shouldn’t miss getting in touch with their Sales Lightboxes time and time again. The Sales Lightboxes encompass only images that are relevant to the season. For instance, all 134 stock files from the Harvest Time collection are sold with a 20% discount. Similar discounts could be eligible on Halloween and Thanksgiving Day, next.


Stock Images

Don’t forget to take into account the high-quality files from Cutcaster. This is one of the few stock agencies on the market that have an entirely exclusive set of images at their clients’ disposal, all of which are categorized into loads of topics. 920 of those high resolution files can be found in the excellent Crescendo Collection, not to mention that Cutcaster’s picture collections are gorgeous beyond measure. In order to buy from Cutcaster, you don’t have to sign up; you can just pay as you go with credits. On the other hand, if you choose to engage in something of a more committed nature, there are 4 available credit packages which entail up to 49% savings: bronze, silver, gold, and a plan which is customizable for over 100 credits.


Stock Images

To say that Stockfresh is convenient may be an understatement. The agency is in charge of a ‘army’ of over 2 and a half million royalty-free stock files. If I were you, I’d make sure to investigate their collection of 300.000 vectors, because it harbors some top-class pieces of work. As far as pricing goes, Stockfresh is really affordable: subscriptions come with the cost of $99 per month, and 5 to 500 credits can be acquired in one shot at the price of $4.99 each. Besides, my experience with their user interface was a very positive one; it’s charming, and uncomplicated, and it never wastes your time. And speaking of saving time, the Stockfresh search box delivers exactly what you need, in the blink of an eye.


Stock Images

Bigstock deserves its rightful place in my selection of 10 best stock image sources. The feature that makes Bigstock so popular at the moment is no other than the agency’s awesome 7-day Free Trial. If you activate this trial, there is no hidden catch – you may cancel anytime you like. But if you go with it, there is 7 days’ worth of free access to Bigstock’s 14 million-stack of vectors and images, and you can download anything you fancy at a rate of 5 images per day, with no credit card required (not even for re-downloads). After the trial ends, if you want to buy from Bigstock, you need to subscribe or pay with credits. Equipping credits can save you up to 27%, while a subscription for 5 daily downloads over the course of a whole year will drop the price for each image to only $0.35.


Stock Images

Dreamstime is a valuable addition to my list. The agency first started out in 2000, so it has a great deal of experience to boast of. Their services are easy, affordable, and their experienced employees come up with fabulous offers all the time. Their latest is a blast: if you seal the deal with them (and sign up for free) within 24 hours of the first visit, you have all that time to buy as many images as you want out of their 18 and a half million files, at a huge discount: 60%. Besides, Dreamstime has a free section of web design graphics, photos, and illustrations, which is open only to designers. Therefore, you can download at will from their vaults, free of charge.


Stock Images

I wouldn’t dream of finalizing my list of notable stock image agencies without shedding some light on PhotoSpin. PhotoSpin has organized its 3 million royalty-free stock photos and illustrations in two major collections. The Expanded Collection is the largest, as it encases 2.4 million files. In order to buy an image from this gigantic collection, the user has to settle for a customized plan based on 4 categories, 4 month terms, and 16 different subscription plans. The remainder of PhotoSpin’s content (600.000 images) can be found in the Premier Collection, which can be accessed once the user has established the size of all future downloads, and thus settle for a Plus or a Super Plus plan.